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Displaying items by tag: Middle Sea Race

1700 CEST: It is the year that just keeps on giving. By midnight on Wednesday, 15 of the 50-boat fleet had completed the course. Ten of those were competing under IRC for the overall Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy and the French yacht, Tonnerre de Glen, was the ‘clubhouse leader’, facing a tense wait to see if their corrected time could be overhauled. With more than 30 boats still on the course, there were plenty with the opportunity, if conditions conspired in their favour. At 0350 CEST, this morning (Thursday), it was all over for Dominique Tian’s Tonnerre. The Maltese yacht, Elusive 2, slipped across the line in a fading breeze to take the lead by just over one and a half hours. The burden of waiting had transferred.

That wait was close to 12 hours but, at 1500 CEST, the Royal Malta Yacht Club were satisfied no one out on the course could surpass Elusive 2. As winners of last year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race, by winning the 41st edition, the crew of the Beneteau First 45, jointly skippered by Maya, Christoph and Aaron Podesta, had achieved something no boat had managed since 1980 - winning back to back races. The Podesta family chapter in the legend of the race, began by father Arthur back in 1968, continues to grow.

The Elusive crew are an impressively tight knit group. The preparation of their boat is detailed and exemplary. It was made more complicated this year by the need to consider social distancing and maintain family bubbles. It is a real team, each member bringing something special to the mix. So closely bound are the four main protagonists, the three Podesta siblings and the navigator, David Anastasi, that they even considered not racing at all had one of them fallen ill before the start.

“It is a huge achievement to have won this race in back to back years,” enthused Christoph, clearly grappling with the enormity of their success. “It is really hard to win the race at the best of times, so winning it twice in a row is massive and something we are all going to be very proud of for a long time to come. We are sailing with our family boat, with a family team and I am struggling to find words to describe the feeling!”

“It is quite surreal that we have managed to tick all the boxes to top the podium again,” confirmed Maya. “The race means a lot to us. We worked really hard preparing the boat, just as if it was any other year. We were juggling so much between work and family though, we almost did not have time to think properly about the race. Nothing comes easily and we worked very hard for it pushing, pushing, pushing.”

For Aaron, too, the size of accomplishment is taking time to dawn, perhaps reflecting the exhaustion etched in his face as he stepped ashore after nearly five days at sea: “Generally, a Rolex Middle Sea Race is a mix of physical and mental toughness. Last year was a good mixture of the two. This year, the light conditions made it mentally very challenging.”

“Physically it was pretty straight-forward,” continued Aaron. “There was no battling with oilskins while the boat pounds and heels, or getting in and out of a wet bunk. Mentally, though, it was super-draining. You could not relax for one minute. There were wind holes everywhere, every corner of the race had a park up. We had to really plan how we were going to get out of the holes as quick as possible.”

David Anastasi commented: “This year was really interesting tactically and navigationally because of the relatively small size of the fleet and our class. Some of our usual competition did not make it, so we lacked boats to gauge ourselves against. Last year we could see our gains. So we sailed our race, were confident in our decisions, making them based upon where we were on the course rather than looking at other boats.”

Despite the fatigue from the cerebral test, they clearly relished the challenge. Christoph, who was completing his 19th race, enjoys each opportunity to learn more about the course: “Every year, I keep adding new tricks and pieces of the puzzle to the notebook of the race. Hopefully, I will use them in the future to make sure we do not get stuck or lose valuable time for silly mistakes.”

Like his brother and sister, Christoph was delighted that they and the crew had adapted well to the circumstances of this year. “We normally have a really heavy weather piece of the race that takes it out of us,” he continued. “This year, I think all that energy was channelled into patience and calmness, keeping the boat going fast, trying to understand the weather patterns and strategic positioning on the course.”

As well as being first overall in the IRC fleet, Elusive secured the veritable ‘cherry on the cake’ according to Aaron, by being first Maltese boat home on the water. Something they really had not expected at all, but being fiercely proud of their national heritage, a scalp that is valued highly.

Are the Elusive crew looking ahead to next year? “We are clearly quite addicted to the race,” admits Christoph. “I have no doubt we will start joking between us about modifications and improvements, picking up upon weaknesses we found with the boat and ourselves. I’m sure we‘ll keep on building on all the hard work.”

It has taken 40 years for a boat to repeat success in consecutive years.

Who would bet against next year being a three-peat?

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At 15:00 CEST today (Thursday, 22 October 2020) the winner of the 41st edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race was announced as the Maltese First 45 Elusive 2, skippered by Aaron, Christoph and Maya Podesta.

As Afloat reported earlier, none of the remaining yachts at sea are able to better their corrected time.

Elusive 2 becomes the first boat to win back to back races since Nita IV, which won three times between 1978 and 1980.

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A strengthening breeze from the southeast has brought the key middle group of top handicap win contenders in the 41st Rolex Middle Sea Race from Lampedusa through the night and the early hours of this morning to the finish at Malta. And though the wind drew more from the east to head them as they neared Valetta, the leading home team of the Podesta family in the First 45 Elusive 2 retained the first place on handicap in which they'd clearly emerged at the Lamepdusa turn, and took what now looks like an unassailable overall win in the 41st Rolex Middle Sea Race.

Once she'd found the breeze, Elusive's performance improved even further, and she lengthened her corrected overall lead to almost exactly two hours ahead of Dominique Tian's Ker 46 Tonnere de Glen (originally Piet Vroon's Tonnere de Breskens, and no stranger to the Round Ireland Course).

The top eight places as currently finished have underlined the exceptionally international nature of this race, which attracted entries from 21 countries, and saw 15 nations represented at the start – with crew from many more - even after pandemic restrictions reduced the boat numbers.

Third place saw a return to the frame by the Belgian Swa 50 Baltahasar (Louis Balcaen), 4th was the TP52 Freccia Rossa from Russia, 5th was the Aquila 45 Katsu from Germany, 6th was Teasing Machine from France, 7th was Hagar V from Italy and 8th was Aragon from The Netherlands with Nin O'Leary on board, which was first on IRC of the boats above 70ft and winner of Class 1.

Middle_sea_race_course

Published in Offshore

After an excellent Pantellaria to Lampedusa leg, Middle Sea Race defending champion Elusive 2 (Podesta family, Royal Malta YC) has just corrected into the overall lead, and up ahead the Volvo 70 I Love Poland (Konrad Lipski) has finally made the finish to take the monohull line honours, as Afloat reported here.

While Elusive 2 has always been in touch, and led on Corrected Time now and again, more recently the focus has been on boats around the 50 to 55ft mark as favourites to win in a demanding race in flukey winds, with some of the more austerely-provisioned now getting low on food.

The Aquila 45 Katsu, formerly owned by RUYC member Alan Hannon and now owned by Carl-Peter Forster of GermanyThe Aquila 45 Katsu, formerly owned by RUYC member Alan Hannon and now owned by Carl-Peter Forster of Germany, is currently third overall in the Middle Sea Race. Photo courtesy RMYC.

But well-fed or not, for the last three turns of this 606-mile race - at Favignana, Pantelleria and Lampedusa - the top IRC placings have been shuffled between around eight boats, and at Lampedusa it was Elusive's turn to correct into 50 minutes ahead of the French-owned Ker 46 Tonnere de Glen, with another similarly similarly-sized boat, the Aquila 45 Katsu (once owned by Donegal-based Royal Ulster YC member Alan Hannon) in third, while the Marten 72 Aragon, with Crosshaven's Nin O'Leary in the afterguard, is staying in the picture at 8th.

Middle_sea_race_courseSaving the best till last – some excellent sailing between Pantelleria and Lampedusa has done the business for Elusive 2

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I Love Poland (POL), skippered by Grzegorz Baranowski crossed the finish line of the 2020 Rolex Middle Sea Race at the Royal Malta Yacht Club to take Monohull Line Honours at 11:58:05 CEST today (Wednesday 21st October) in an elapsed time of 3 days, 23 hours 58 minutes 5 seconds.

Baranowski, claimed a dramatic line honours title following the closest finish in recent race history. She arrived a little over three minutes ahead of rival entry E1, also from Poland and another VO70. The two crews enjoyed a memorable duel over the final ten miles, effectively match racing towards the finish line.

The race record remains the time of one day, 23 hours, 55 minutes and three seconds set by the American yacht Rambler in 2007.

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If you know it's going to be a light airs Middle Sea offshore race, you'd reckon a stripped out and race-proven TP52 would be a good all-round bet, with her ability to comfortably outsail anything smaller, yet with an uncanny capacity to stay within shouting distance of much larger craft.

It's something which is being demonstrated very clearly at the moment as the mono-hull leaders struggle slowly over the leg from Pantelleria to Lampedusa. For although the Volvo 70 I Love Poland continues to lead on the water in the light southeast winds, having finally put Lampedusa astern, back at the previous turning point of Pantellaria the corrected time leader was Russian skipper Vadim Yakimento's TP52 Freccia Rossa, which was just 22 minutes on the water astern of Eric de Turcheim's NMYD 54 Teasing Machine from France, but The Machine's higher rating mans that, not for the first time, it's a Russian boat leading the Mediterranean's premier event.

Russian-owned TP 52 Freccia RossaA reliable thoroughbred – the Russian-owned TP 52 Freccia Rossa currently leads the Rolex Middle Sea Race

The conditions make it particularly demanding to get a competitive performance out of a well-appointed cruiser-racer such as the Marten R-P 72 Aragon from The Netherlands, but aboard her Nin O'Leary and his shipmate have shown they've the patience and persistence required, as Aragon is currently lying fifth overall.

Middle_sea_courseThe 606-mile course uses turning marks which are directly drawn down from an episode of Inspector Montalbano……

As for the defending champion, the First 45 Elusive 2 raced by the Podesta family of Malta, they are currently first in Class 4, but at Favignana were lying sixth overall, one place behind Aragon.

Ferguson celebrates in Valetta

Meanwhile, in Valetta there's socially-distanced celebrating with the crews of the big trimarans Maserati and Mana, as Maserati took line honours, but Mana – with round Ireland record 1993 veteran Brian Thompson and Mikey Ferguson of Belfast Lough on the strength – pipped her by four minutes for the corrected time multihull win.

The celebrations are both socially-distanced and decidedly muted, as the crews, having flown in from a mainland Europe already starting to close down even further, are now wondering if they're going to have a longer stay than planned in Malta's warm Autumn sunshine.

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Maserati Multi70 (ITA), skippered by Giovanni Soldini, crossed the finish line of the 2020 Rolex Middle Sea Race at the Royal Malta Yacht Club to take Multihull Line Honours at 20:41:31 CEST on Monday 19th October in an elapsed time of 2 days, 08 hours 31 minutes 31 seconds.

Mana (ITA), owned by Riccardo Pavoncelli, and with Belfast Lough sailor Mikey Ferguson onboard, finished fifteen minutes behind after a closely fought battle around the course.

Ferguson's handicap win

Ferguson & Brian Thompson (Lakota round Ireland record 1993) on Mana have won the Middle Sea Race Mocrra Division on corrected time by 4 minutes 23 seconds.

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Nice one, Nin. With a sailing rockstar recruited into your crew, it's reasonable to expect a 22-carat gold rockstar introduction to the on-stage performance. And Crosshaven super-helm Nin O'Leary certainly came up with the goods at the start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race in Malta yesterday, when he sliced out of the harbour in one single uninterrupted port tack with the Dutch-owned R-P/Marteen 72 Aragon, getting clear first into open water when others further down the line in the classes coming along later saw some time-consuming experiences of zig-zagging in the in-harbour flukey winds.

Although the organisers were still looking at 71 starters from 21 countries a week ago, as the start approached and the COVID-19 shutters came down with increasing severity in Europe, there were drop-outs. These included the famous Lombard 45 Pata Negra on charter to Andrew Hall of ISORA and Pwllheli, and in the end the Royal Malta YC did well to get just under 50 boats from 15 countries heading away on the 606-mile course anti-clockwise round Sicily and assorted islands.

Rolex Middle Sea Race CourseThe Rolex Middle Sea Race Course has everything except – for the moment – record-making wind strengths

They are doing it in a weather pattern of lightish winds which has already ruled out any possibility of a new record, but has nevertheless given the small but select Irish representation at the front of the fleet their time in the limelight. For in addition to the O'Leary talent on Aragon, the MOD 70 trimaran Mano, with Mikey Ferguson of Belfast Lough on board, was leading the multi-hulls.

It was a frustrating business getting along Sicily's East Coast and through the Straits of Messina, and out ahead among the multis the leader after putting Stromboli astern was Maserati with Mano third, while in IRC the Volvo 70 I Love Poland was the front runner.

The Belgian Swan 50 Balthasar was overall leader at MessinaThe Belgian Swan 50 Balthasar was overall leader at Messina

However, on corrected time at Messina, the IRC leader was the Swan 50 Balthasar (Louis Balcaen, Belgium), but the Podesta family of Malta's defending champion, the First 45 Elusive 2, was well in touch in third, just 20 minutes being the Belgian boat on CT.

And of the biggies, Aragon was doing best - she was sixth overall, on Corrected Time, close behind two boats with strong Round Ireland Race links, Eric de Turckheim's Teasing Machine and Tonnere de Glen, the former Piet Vroon Ker 46 Tonnere de Breskens

There's no "ocean racing" course quite like the Middle Sea, and in the current weather setup, there'll be plenty of frustration and placing upsets before they finish. But at least this very special race is up and running, and taking part in it is just about the healthiest thing that those involved could be doing.

Published in Offshore

Day One: (17.00 CEST) Even with a reduced fleet, half the size of recent years, it was hard to not get sucked into the emotion and atmosphere of today’s Rolex Middle Sea Race start. The 41st edition got underway, as planned, on schedule and, most importantly, all clear. Seven starts and 50 yachts. Given the backdrop of a global pandemic, it marks a remarkable achievement for the organisers, the Royal Malta Yacht Club, and its highly professional volunteer team. As we go to press, the main body of the fleet is streaming across towards Capo Passero on the south eastern tip of Sicily. Impressively, the leading multihull, Maserati (ITA), was abeam the lighthouse on Isola di Capopássero at 1445 CEST, a mere 2.5 hours after its start.

Middle Sea Race competitors emerge from the historic Grand Harbour in Malta’s capital VallettaMiddle Sea Race competitors emerge from the historic Grand Harbour in Malta’s capital Valletta Photo: Kurt Arrigo
Meanwhile, the VO70 I Love Poland, skippered by Grzegorz Baranowski, leads the monohull fleet on the water, passing Capo Passero just after 1600 CEST. The VO65 Sisi-Austrian Ocean Race Project, skippered by Gerwin Jansen was approximately 20 minutes astern with Marton Jozsa’s Hungarian RP60 Wild Joe behind.

It was a glorious day to start a yacht race. Valletta’s golden limestone bastions, rising boldly from the waters of Grand Harbour, bathed in bright sunshine. The force 4 north-westerly, creating a whitecap strewn vista beyond the breakwater, was sufficient to allow crews to clear the line with relative ease. The pin end at the foot of Fort St Angelo was understandably favoured with Valletta casting a wind shadow over section beneath the Saluting Battery, where the race committee was located. The early starts were close fought affairs with teams keen to press home an advantage on their immediate opposition.

Class 1 Start 

The most powerful monohull start, and the penultimate in timing, took a while to wind up. Aragon (NED), the biggest in the fleet, belted across the start with the smaller Wild Joe on her hip and just to leeward. The arguably more powerful I Love Poland and E1, together with Sisi-The Austrian Ocean Race Project were slow to power up in a diminishing wind. Aragon held position and nerve to exit on one tack. Once on the wind, I Love Poland took control overhauling both Aragon (with Nin O'Leary aboard) and Wild Joe by the turning mark at St Julian’s. If conditions do as predicted, the Polish crew will have their work cut out to protect the lead overnight. Many of the Polish crew on E1 are doing the race for the first time. Sailing skipper and helmsman Rafal Sawicki was enthusiastic ahead of the start: “We’re a mainly amateur crew, and we are very happy we can do this 600-mile race even with all the problems around the world. It is really good that the organisers have managed the race and we can take part. It is a must do race.”

Multihull Start
The six-boat multihull class was an extraordinary sight. Reminiscent of a Klingon battle fleet (for anyone that remembers Star Trek from the 1970s), five racing trimarans set up their timed start-line runs from deep within Grand Harbour. Poor Asia, the Outremer 55 Light, more cruising than racing in this company, looked like a startled rabbit in the headlights as she tried to keep clear and find her own lane. Riccardo Pavoncelli’s MOD70 Mana (with Mikey Ferguson aboard) crossed at speed edging Maserati and leaving Antoine Rabaste’s larger Ultim’Emotion in her slipstream. Mana only arrived in Malta yesterday evening. Brian Thompson commented ahead of the start: “We are very excited about this year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race. It is probably the best multihull fleet we have had and, this year, the racecourse looks as challenging as ever.”

Multihulls sprint away from the start Photo: Kurt ArrigoMultihulls sprint away from the start Photo: Kurt Arrigo

Maserati had cut their arrival time even finer, reaching the Valletta Fairway Buoy at 0800 CEST this morning and starting the race without setting foot on Maltese soil in an effort to avoid a period of isolation when they return to Italy after the race. It was quite a sight as Maserati chased Mana through the fleet after exiting the harbour, eventually overhauling them 10nm after the laid mark at St Julian’s.

Class 2 Start
The five-boat group is many people’s favourite to provide the overall winner under IRC. Eric de Turkheim’s Teasing Machine (FRA) has form at this race-winning her class in 2017 and finishing third overall. Vadim Yakimenko’s Russian TP52 Freccia Rossa has won the Rolex Giraglia and is reckoned to be a demon in the light conditions predicted to lie ahead. These two led from the line with Freccia Rossa breaking free of the harbour confines ahead of Teasing Machine.

Class 3 Start
A fight for the favoured pin end caused several teams to suffer a less than perfect start. Maksim Nemchenko’s Farr 45 Favorit plus, stayed out of trouble and perfectly executed towards the middle of the line. Dominique Tian’s French Ker 46 Tonnerre de Glen adopted the same tactic. Favorit plus led the class out of Grand Harbour, much to the delight of the team whose home port is Kotor, Montenegro. At 1700 CEST Kito De Pavant’s Class 40 Made in Midi was leading on the water.

First 45 Elusive 2 (left) and Sean Borg’s Xp44 Xpresso Photo: Kurt ArrigoFirst 45 Elusive 2 (left) and Sean Borg’s Xp44 Xpresso Photo: Kurt Arrigo

Class 4 Start
Right from the gun, two Maltese yachts locked horns in a battle that is set to continue around the 606nm course. Sean Borg’s Xp44 Xpresso and First 45 Elusive 2, skippered by Christoph, Aaron & Maya Podesta, both made a great start. While Xpresso was the first boat in class to leave Grand Harbour, after rounding the Fairway Buoy, Elusive 2 soon took up pole position on the water.

Class 5 Start
Jonathan Gambin’s Maltese Dufour 44R Ton Ton Laferla judged their approach to the start to perfection and found good breeze to win the exit from Grand Harbour with the crew stacked high on the windward rail. Also starting well were Paul Debono’s Elan 410 Bait in their first race, Jonathan Camilleri Bowman’s Maltese Falcon II, Alexey Moskvin’s J/122E Buran and Max Muller’s German Luffe 4004 Prettynama2. Towards the back was Italian entry Mia. The owner, Luigi Stoppani, is taking part in not just his first ever Rolex Middle Sea Race, but his first race ever: “Last year I bought my boat, and decided I needed to get to know myself and my boat better. So I took the chance to participate in this race. There are many difficult parts, but we are prepared: the boat, the sails, and the crew, we are ready to start.”


Class 6 Start
The Grand Soleil 40 Aziza, sailed by a Latvian crew and skippered by Ilgonis Balodis, started on port tack at the pin end and pulled off a stunning start. Starting well too was the young Maltese team on J/109 Jarhead, skippered by Lloyd Hamilton. Another J/109, Chestress from Italy, also put in a good start. The owner, Leonardo Petti, is on his second Rolex Middle Sea Race: “We have not sailed as a crew since the race last year. We wanted to, but it has not been possible,” Petti announced. “I think this is one of the most beautiful races I have ever done. The course is fantastic. It is wonderful to see volcanoes, to experience hard conditions. It’s tough.” One of the smallest yachts in the race had the honour of leading the class out of Grand Harbour: Jean-Francois Nouel’s French Sun Fast 3200 Hakuna Matata. At 1700 CEST, Jean Luc Hamon’s French JPK 10.10 Raging Bee was going well.

Seven teams are racing Double Handed, front runners on the water are three Italian boats: Marco Paolucci’s Comet 45 Libertine, Natale Lia's Mylius 14 Zenhea Takesha and Alessio Bernabui’s Akilaria 40 Crossing Routes – Vaquita. Going well after time correction is the French J/109 Jubilee, sailed by Gerald Boess & Jonathan Bordas.

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Mikey Ferguson from Bangor on Belfast Lough was looking forward yesterday (16th) to getting going on the MOD70 Mana in the 41st Edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race which started today from the historic Grand Harbour in Malta's capital Valletta. In light of the global pandemic, the Royal Malta Yacht Club has put in place special protocols and arrangements to ensure the safety of competitors, ashore and at sea.

Mikey is part of an Irish line up in the 70-boat fleet, as described by WM Nixon on Afloat today (17th October) here

He was hopeful of a good result on the multi-maestro Brian Thompson skippered Italian Mana, entered by Riccardo Pavoncelli. "We should do battle for line honours. The weather looks challenging and avoiding wind holes which will litter the course will the main aim. It's easier when its daylight".

Famed for its magnificent offshore race course and revered for the scale of the challenge it presents, the Rolex Middle Sea Race is one of the most prominent events on the international yachting calendar. Mikey is excited to have another Italian entry, the near sistership Multi 70 Maserati, to race against. She set the multihull record in 2016 with a time of 49hrs 25m 1s and now Giovanni Soldini and Maserati are back.

Mikey added, "There will be stiff competition too from the French 80 ft tri Ultim'emotion 2". She is entered by Antoine Rabaste and was winner of the Cape2Rio Race as LoveWater in January. He concludes "It could be a long slow race but hopefully we will avoid separation from the other big Tris and are in the mix at the end for line honours".
You can follow the race on the tracker here 

Published in Belfast Lough
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